A couple of years ago, I tried the stuffed shells recipe from Real Simple magazine. It was alright but there was just way too much ricotta. Michael really isn’t a big fan of ricotta and I felt as though this recipe missed a big chance to pack a lot into those shells. The shells were stuffed with mostly cheese and some spinach. It was just a missed veggie opportunity in my book. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with adding a few more veggies and reducing the cheese load.
I finally got this recipe to submit to my taste. It is brilliant. I’ve reduced the cheese by half and added broccoli, carrots, garlic, and crushed red pepper as well as doubled the sauce. Instead of using shredded mozzarella, I opted for sliced fresh mozzarella. In the last year, I’ve moved toward not purchasing pre-shredded cheeses as they contain additives that act as anti-caking agents. That weirds me out. So I just take the time to shred my own. When making this recipe, I realized I was out of brick mozzarella so I just used some fresh mozzarella I had on hand. I’m so glad I did. The fresh mozzarella brought this dish to a whole new level! I’ll keep experimenting with this dish but I think I’ve got it just about right where I want it. 🙂
Veggie Stuffed Shells
- 20 whole wheat jumbo pasta shells (about half a 12-ounce box)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 carrots, diced
- 4 (or more) cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 24-ounce jars high quality marinara sauce with very few ingredients (I recommend Di Salvo’s)
- 15 oz whole milk ricotta
- 1 bunch spinach, chopped (kale or chard would also be great if you want to be more seasonal)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, shredded
- salt and black pepper
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
1. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and run under cold water to cool.
2. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the carrots until they are almost cooked through. Add the garlic, broccoli, and some salt and pepper. Saute until the carrots are cooked through and the broccoli is cooked and dark green. Don’t cook the broccoli to death! A little crunch is just fine. You don’t want to cook all the vitamins out!
3. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes. I think I put it a teaspoon but it might have been more since I did it on a whim. Just add the flakes to taste.
4. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, Parmesan, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Stir in the carrots and broccoli.
6. Spread the marinara sauce in the bottom of a large baking dish.
7. Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on top of the sauce. Place the sliced mozzarella atop the shells and bake until heated through, 10 to 12 minutes. Increase the heat to 500 and cook until the cheese begins to brown, 2 to 5 minutes.